What on Earth have we done with the Teachings of Jesus?
Jesus often spoke in parables. Earthly stories with deep heavenly meanings. There are those in the world who are like lost sheep. Those who need to be restored back to the fold. As Jesus told these few parables, He spoke in the presence of the religious leaders of the day – the Pharisees. They, like many religious leaders today, thought they had the monopoly on the grace of God and believed their place was secure in heaven. But Jesus came to challenge their self-righteous beliefs and call the ones who felt they had been forgotten. The parable of the two sons.
Was there ever such a love? They nailed His feet and His hands They were totally unaware Of the true significance of what He was doing His love would have held Him there! Lifted high upon a cross The people could only stand and stare What of those cruel nails? It was His love that held Him there. To a world that rebuked Him He said, “I alone care” Was there ever love like this? A love truly beyond compare. From death new life for us And this by the one sacrifice. We can now live and love as He Because He paid the price. All is completed now He reigns from high above The love of God poured out for us Was there ever such a love? By the late Andrew Feakin (passed away 16th March 2019)
The Parable of the Two Sons
But what do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.
Henry says – Christ often instructed His disciples through parables, which made the instructions more easy to understand. Yet sometimes He convinced His adversaries by parables also which caused them to reprove themselves. Likewise Nathan convinced David by a parable (2 Sam. 22:1), and the woman of Tekoa surprised him in like manner, 2 Sam. 14:2. Christ designs this here, as appears by the first words (Matt. 21:28), But what do you think?
In these verses we have the parable of the two sons sent to work in the vineyard. It represents two sorts of persons. Some who prove better than they promise and others who promise better than they prove.
God sets His children to work
They both had the same father, which signifies that God is a common Father to all mankind. There are favours which all receive from Him, and obligations which all alike lie under Him. Do we not all have one Father? Yes, and yet there is a vast difference between men’s characters.
They both received the same command: Son, go to work today in my vineyard. Parents should not bring up their children in idleness. Nothing is more destructive to youth than that. Lam. 3:27. God sets His children to work, though they are all heirs. This command is given to every one of us.
We are all called to engage in the works of faith. It is vineyard work, profitable and pleasant. Through the sin of Adam we were turned out to work upon the common ground, and to eat the herb of the field. But by the grace of our Lord Jesus we are called to work in His vineyard. The gospel call to work in the vineyard, requires immediate obedience. Son, go to work today, while it is called today, because the night comes when no man can work.
We were not sent into the world to be idle, nor has daylight been given to us to play. Therefore, if ever we mean to do anything for God and our souls, why not now? Why not today? The exhortation to go work today in the vineyard, speaks to us as unto children. (Heb. 12:5) Son, go and work. It is the command of a Father, which carries with it both authority and affection. A Father who pities His children, and considers their frame, and will not overtask them (Ps. 103:13, 14). A Father who is very tender toward His Son who serves Him, Mal. 3:17.
Afterward he repented and went
One of the sons did better than he said, proved better than he promised. His answer was bad, but his actions were good. He gave the untoward answer to his father, he said, flat and plain I will not. It is the corrupt nature of man that rises to say, I will not, to the command of a Father. Those who will not bend cannot blush. Excuses are bad but downright denials are worse. The calls of the gospel often meet with such absolute refusals. Some love their ease, and will not work. They would live in the world as leviathan in the waters, to play in it (Ps. 104:26). They do not love working.
Of such their hearts are so fixed upon their own fields that they are not for working in God’s vineyard. They love the business of the world better than the business of their faith. Thus some by the delights of sense, and others by the employments of the world, are kept from doing that great work which they were sent into the world for, and so stand all the day idle.
Yet there is a happy change of mind, and of his way, upon a second thought. Afterward he repented and went. There are many who in the beginning are wicked and wilful, and very unpromising, who afterward repent and mend. Some who God has chosen run to a great excess of riot; Such were some of you, 1 Cor. 6:11. These are set forth for patterns of long-suffering, 1 Tim. 1:16. Afterward he repented. Better late than never.
What a kind Father God is
When he repented, he went. That was the fruit applicable for repentance. The only evidence of our repentance is to immediately comply and get to work. Then what is past, shall be pardoned, and all shall be well. See what a kind Father God is. He does not resent the affront of our refusals though He would be justified to do so. He who told his father to his face, that he would not do as he asked him, deserved to be turned out and disinherited. But our God waits to be gracious. He does not stand against us for our former foolishness. If we repent and mend our ways He will favourably accept us. Blessed be God, we are under a covenant that leaves room for such repentance.
The other son spoke of things more than he did them. His answer was good but his actions bad. To him the father said the same thing, Matt. 21:30. The gospel call is in effect the same to all. We all have the same commands, engagements and encouragements, though to some they are a savour of life unto life, to others of death unto death.
This other son promised adamantly: He said, I will go, sir. He gives his father a title of respect, sir. It becomes children to speak respectfully to their parents the fifth commandment requires it. He professes a ready obedience, I go, not, “I will go later,” but, “Ready, sir, you may depend upon it, I will go right now.” This is the answer we should give from the heart to all the calls and commands of the Word of God. See (Jer. 3:22 Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding.” “Yes, we will come to you, for you are the Lord our God) and (Ps. 27:8 My heart says of you, “Seek His face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek).
Buds and blossoms are not fruit
However he failed in the performance; He did not go. There are many who give good words, and make fair promises. But they go no further, and so come to nothing. Saying and doing are two things. Many there are who say but do not do. This is particularly charged against the religious leaders, Matt. 23:3. Many with their mouth show much love, but their heart goes another way. They had a good mind to be religious. But when they met with something to be done it was too hard. Or when they met with something to be parted with, it was too dear, and so their purposes are to no purpose. Buds and blossoms are not fruit.
Jesus asked Which of these did the will of his father? Matt. 21:31. They both had their faults, one was rude and the other was false. Parents often have such variety in their children. They have need of a great deal of wisdom and grace to know what is the best way of managing them. But the question is, Which was the better of the two, and the less faulty? And it was soon resolved. It was the first one, because his actions were better than his words, and his latter end better than his beginning.
This they had learned from the common sense of mankind. We would all prefer to deal with one who will be better than his word, than with one who is false to his word. Through this they learned of the account God gives in the rule of His judgment. (Ezek. 18:21-24), If the sinner turns from his wickedness, he shall be pardoned. If the righteous man turns from his righteousness, he shall be rejected. The theme of this parable helps us to understand that those who are accepted are those who do their Father’s will. Yet even when they have missed it and are sorry for it, still they do better.
He taught people to repent
The primary scope of the parable is to show how the drunkards and harlots submitted to the discipline of John the Baptist. Yet the priests and elders who talked big with expectations of the Messiah scorned John the Baptist, and ran counter to the designs of his mission. But it has a further reach. The Gentiles were sometimes disobedient and had for a while been children of disobedience, like the elder son (Titus 3:3, 4). Yet, when the gospel was preached to them, they became obedient to the faith. It was the Jews who said, I will go, sir and promised on it (Exod. 24:7; Josh. 24:24), yet did not. They purely flattered God with their mouths only. Ps. 78:36.
In this parable Christ proves that John’s baptism was from heaven, and not of men. John came to you in the way of righteousness. You should have known that John had his commission from heaven according to the rule, By their fruits you shall know them. They should have assessed through the fruits of his doctrines and the fruits of his doings. If you observe their way you may be able trace out their tendencies.
It was evident that John came in the way of righteousness. In his ministry, he taught people to repent, and to work the works of righteousness. In his conversation, he was a great example of strictness, seriousness and contempt of the world. He denied himself and did good to everyone. Christ, therefore, submitted to the baptism of John, because it was good for Him to fulfil all righteousness. Now, if John came in the way of righteousness, could they be ignorant that his baptism was from heaven, or make any doubt of it?
They had a form for godliness
The drunkards and the harlots believed him. He did an abundance of good among the worst sort of people. Paul proves his apostleship by the seals of his ministry, 1 Cor. 9:2. If God had not sent John the Baptist, he would not have crowned his labours with such wonderful success. Nor would He have made him so instrumental in the conversion of souls. If drunkards and harlots believe his report, surely the arm of the Lord is with him.
The drunkards and harlots were like the first son in the parable, from whom little of faith was expected. They did not promise much good. Their disposition was generally rude, and their conversation degraded, yet many of them were affected by the ministry of John. These represented the Gentile world.
The chief priests and elders, and the Jewish nation in general, were like the other son who gave good words. They made a profession of religion. Yet when the kingdom of the Messiah was brought among them by the baptism of John, they turned their back on it. A hypocrite is just as difficult to convert as a gross sinner. They had the form of godliness which when trusted in becomes one of Satan’s strongholds.
Shall drunkards and harlots go away with grace and glory and shall we not put in for a share? Shall our inferiors be more holy and more happy than we? These proud priests who were set as leaders scorned to follow even though it was into the kingdom of heaven. Through the pride of their countenance they would not follow the drunkards. They would not seek after God, after Christ, (Ps. 10:4 In his pride the wicked man does not seek Him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God).
Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary
Prayer for the Day
Father I come to You. I know we are all called to engage in the works of faith. May I hear and respond to the gospel call to work in Your vineyard. Thank You that Your Word states that You pity Your children, and You consider our frame, and will not overtask us. You are very tender toward the one who serves You.
May I never be one who responds with such absolute refusals to the call of the gospel. May I not be one who loves my ease, and so will not work. Forgive me where I have delighted in the senses and been kept in the employments of this world more than doing that great work. May I immediately comply and get to work. May what is past be pardoned, and so all shall be well.
Thank You that You do not resent the affront of my previous refusals. May Your commands, engagements and encouragements by a savour of life unto life for me. Cause all my answers to be ‘I am ready, Sir, you may depend upon me, I will go right now.’
Thank You that You cure all my backsliding. May I continually seek Your face and so live. May I be willing do what is hard and part with things that are dear to me for Your higher cause. I ask for wisdom and grace to know the best way of managing my children and those in my care.
May I be one who is better than my word and never one who is false to my word. May I do Your will and so be accepted. And where I miss it, give me a spirit of repentance that I will be the better for it.
May I in conversation, be a great example of strictness, seriousness and contempt of the world. Cause me to be willing to deny myself and do good to everyone. May I be willing to do an abundance of good among the worst sort of people. Let me never trust in any form of godliness either in myself or others, but judge myself and others by our fruit. In the name of Christ, I pray. Amen.